Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FOOD - rustic lasagna

As part of Adam's Valentine's Day gift last year - I gave him the most awesome pan of all times - a cherry red Le Creuset 5 quart braiser. It's perfect for everything from roast chicken to cobbler. It is also the perfect vessel for a rustic, delicious, cheesy, pesto-y lasagna. I maybe perhaps purchased this cherry red beauty immediately after seeing it in the William's Sonoma catalog along with a recipe the rustic lasagna.

my gorgeous red le creuset pot. 
For that Valentine's Day dinner - I made a roast chicken, mashed potatoes, caesar salad with homemade croutons and whoopie pies. Roast chicken followed by whoopie pies just seemed more romantic than a hearty heavy lasagna. The following weekend - I tackled the lasagna. It was delicious. Like beyond amazing. It was super time consuming and turned my kitchen into a war zone. Dishes were everywhere, pots were flying. Ohh but it was so worth it.

photo inspiration from the williams-sonoma catalog.
Here is the recipe from the Williams-Sonoma website.

ingredients --

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup raw baby spinach leaves    
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) roasted red bell peppers, drained and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 lb. baby spinach, blanched and squeezed dry
  • 6 oz. no-boil lasagna noodles, torn into rough 2-inch pieces
  • 4 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions --
In a blender, combine the basil leaves, raw spinach, 1/2 tsp. of the garlic and the 1/2 cup olive oil and process until a thick sauce forms. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tsp. garlic and the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the milk, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 15 minutes. Stir the basil puree into the sauce.

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and the excess moisture has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add the bell peppers, blanched spinach, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter a 3 1/2-quart shallow Dutch oven.

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the pot and arrange a single layer of torn noodles on the sauce. Top with 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture, 1 cup of the vegetable mixture, 1/2 cup of the sauce and 1 cup of the mozzarella. Layer the noodles, ricotta, vegetables, sauce and mozzarella 2 more times, then add a layer of noodles, ricotta, vegetables and noodles. Spread the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 cups mozzarella.

Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and bake until the noodles are nearly tender and the filling is bubbly, about 45 minutes. Uncover the pot and continue baking until the top is browned, about 15 minutes more. Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the sliced basil, cut into slices and serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10.

My comments -
1. This recipe calls for a lot of dishes. Like a ton. Expect to have your kitchen look like a bomb exploded. Below is a photo of part of the kitchen explosion - I should have also taken photos of the sink and stove to give you the true damage.

my messy kitchen.
the stove in action.

my final version.

2. I really wish I hadn't used the no boil noodles. They just do not taste the same and after spending so much time and using a dozen dishes - having the real starchy yummy carby noodles  would have really set it beyond beyond amazing. The no boil noodles have a flat still-uncooked taste to them. I'm actually surprised WS recommended them at all.
3. The recipe calls for you to make your own bechamel sauce AND your own pesto. Seriously. The result is phenomenal but if you are feeling sneaky you could buy the fresh made store bought kind from a more upscale grocery store like Molly Stone's or Whole Foods. If you are going to cheat - do it proper with fresh pesto and not that oily, unrefrigerated junk in a jar.
4. Lasagna is always delicious the day you make it and phenomenal the two days after you make it. Pace yourself - it only gets better and it is impossible to get tired of eating lasagna.
5. I wish I had doubled the recipe and made two. It's the same amount of work and mess and lasagna freezes so well. It would have been quite the treat to pull it out of the freezer on a cold week night in early March. All the pleasure and none of the clean-up.
6. Don't forget to have lots of good red wine and crunchy bread on hand.



Rachel said...

Next time I'm in town will you please make this again? Pretty pretty pretty please with a cherry on top? Or, make that a whoopie pie on top. :)

Heather said...

Hi I’m Heather! Please email me when you get a chance! I have a question about your blog. HeatherVonsj(at)gmail(dot)com